The op ed below by CCRC Executive Director Margaret Love appeared in the Washington Post this afternoon. Love argues that focusing on the political message sent by the Arpaio pardon obscures a more fundamental problem with pardoning in today’s federal system: It has all but ceased to play the role the framers intended of advancing fairness and proportionality. She urges a reconnection with the true redemptive purposes of pardoning: to mitigate collateral consequences, recognize rehabilitation, and encourage reintegration. The recent preview of CCRC’s forthcoming study of state relief mechanisms shows that in at least a dozen states pardon continues to serve those purposes.
On Fiday Illinois governor Bruce Rauner signed into law what appears to be the broadest sealing law in the United States, covering almost all felonies and requiring a relatively short eligibility waiting period of three years. We expect to provide a more in-depth discussion of the law next week from practitioners working on the ground in the state, and will soon update the Illinois Restoration of Rights Project profile to reflect these important changes. In the meantime, we share the following from Cabrini Green Legal Aid, which was among the organizations that helped push the legislation through.
This afternoon, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law six pieces of legislation that impact people with arrest and conviction records, including HB 2373 – the sealing expansion bill. This marks the LARGEST expansion of a sealing law in the United States and is a huge win in criminal justice reform. Effective immediately, this new law will provide thousands of people in Illinois the opportunity for criminal records relief by allowing them to petition the court to remove barriers in their lives as a result of their past criminal record. On behalf of our partners with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI),* Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) appreciates the support and involvement of so many of you who took action making phone calls, sending emails and traveling to Springfield.
The Collateral Consequences Resource Center is currently finalizing a 50-state report on the availability of relief from the adverse civil effects of a criminal arrest or conviction. Using research from the Restoration of Rights Project (RRP), the report analyzes the data in several different categories, including executive pardon, judicial record-closing and certificates, and regulation of employment and licensing. It showcases those states that have the most comprehensive and effective relief mechanisms, and at the same time provides a snapshot of the extraordinary recent interest in restoration of rights and status in state legislatures across the country. It also looks at what states are doing to enable less serious offenders to avoid a criminal record altogether, through statutory deferred adjudication programs managed by the courts.
We preview here the report’s conclusions, illustrated by a series of color-coded maps that create a visual image of where people with a criminal record appear to have the best chance of regaining their rights and status through a variety of different relief mechanisms. The full report will be published shortly after Labor Day.
Yesterday, in Commonwealth v. Muniz, __A.3d__ (Pa., July 19, 2017) (47 MAP 2016), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held what for a long time has been obvious to many: that sex offender registration is punishment. Five Justices declared that Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s (SORNA) “registration provisions constitute punishment under Article 1, Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution — Pennsylvania’s Ex Post Facto Clause. The majority of the Court held in no uncertain terms:
1) SORNA’s registration provisions constitute punishment notwithstanding the General Assembly’s identification of the provisions as nonpunitive; 2) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions violates the federal ex post facto clause; and 3) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions also violates the ex post facto clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
This is a radical shift from prior Pennsylvania and federal law. Although the reasoning of the justices to get to this result is a little convoluted because several in the majority did not believe that the court even needed to address the Federal claim, the end result is clear. The decision directly affects roughly 4500 people in addition to Mr. Muniz.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a divided opinion, has held the provisions of the state’s sex offender registration law (SORNA) unconstitutional under the state and federal constitutions. The majority in Commonwealth v. Muniz held that 1) SORNA’s registration provisions constitute punishment notwithstanding the General Assembly’s identification of the provisions as nonpunitive; 2) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions violates the federal ex post facto clause; and 3) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions also violates the ex post facto clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Court distinguished the Alaska registration scheme upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), and cited a number of other recent state high court holdings invalidating similarly harsh registration regimes. The Court relied heavily for its analysis on an amicus brief filed jointly by the Defender Association of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL). CCRC also filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, describing the counterproductive effects of such registration schemes. The concurring and dissenting opinions are posted here and here.
A full analysis of the holding and of the concurring and dissenting opinions will follow shortly.
“The Supreme Court’s Mixed Signals in Packingham” is the title of a thoughtful comment by Bidish Sarma analyzing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Packingham v. North Carolina, recently published on the American Constitution Society website. (An early analysis of the Packingham decision by Wayne Logan appeared on this site on June 20.) Mr. Sarma proposes that “the time has come to ask whether society’s ‘war’ on sex offenders who have already completed criminal sentences has gone too far.”
While the Packingham holding is confined to the First Amendment issues raised by North Carolina’s broad restrictions on access to “an astounding range of websites (including news websites, WebMD and Amazon),” Sarma singles out a sentence in Justice Kennedy’s opinion suggesting a broader underlying concern about the constitutionality of sex offender consequences:
Justice Kennedy’s opinion hints that the justices in fact harbor concerns. In a parenthetical note, the decision referred to “the troubling fact that the law imposes severe restrictions on persons who already have served their sentence and are no longer subject to the supervision of the criminal justice system,” and observed that this fact is “not an issue before the Court.”
The following is a summary of how the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies to criminal background checks, written by Sharon Dietrich of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. More detailed information about FCRA’s interpretation and enforcement is available in this 2011 FTC report. Current information about FCRA’s enforcement as applied to criminal records will appear in the upcoming third edition of Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction: Law Policy and Practice.
Where a criminal record report is provided to an employer by a credit reporting agency (“CRA”), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq, is applicable. See Beaudette, FTC Informal Staff Opinion Letter, June 9, 1998 (available here). FCRA creates obligations both on CRAs preparing criminal background reports and on employers using them.
Among the duties of CRAs compiling criminal background reports for employers are the following:
- CRAs may not report arrests or other adverse information (other than convictions of crimes) which are more than seven years old, provided that the report does not concern employment of an individual who has an annual salary that is $75,000 or more. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681c(a)(5), 1681c(b)(3).
- CRAs must use “reasonable procedures” to insure “maximum possible accuracy” of the information in the report. 15 U.S.C. §1681e(b).
- Elements of cause of action: (1) Inaccurate information in report; (2) inaccuracy due to CRA’s failure to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy; (3) consumer suffered injury (can include emotional injury); and (4) injury was caused by inaccurate entry. Crane v. Trans Union, 282 F. Supp. 2d 311 (E.D. Pa. 2003)(Dalzell) (citing Philin v. Trans Union Corp., 101 F. 3d 957, 963 (3d Cir. 1996)).
- A CRA reporting public record information for employment purposes which “is likely to have an adverse effect on the consumer’s ability to obtain employment” must either notify the person that the public record information is being reported and provide the name and address of the person who is requesting the information at the time that the information is provider to the user or the CRA must maintain strict procedures to insure that the information it reports is complete and up to date. 15 U.S.C. §1681k.
A new California regulation took effect last week that puts employers on notice that adverse action based on criminal history may violate state law prohibitions on racial discrimination. The regulation closely tracks a 2012 guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which asserts that consideration of criminal history by employers violates Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act when it adversely impacts racial minorities and is not job-related or consistent with business necessity.
The California regulation adopts, in broad terms, the same position and standards put forth in the EEOC guidance, but applies them to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits employment discrimination on grounds that are substantially similar to those enumerated in Title VII. Like the EEOC guidance, the new FEHA regulation sets forth a number of factors used to determine whether a particular practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity, including whether it takes into account “the nature and gravity of the offense,” “the time that has passed since the offense,” and “the nature of the job held or sought.”
The fact that the regulation was promulgated by the state’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment, which may sue to enforce the FEHA, may give California employers that have not already conformed their practices to the EEOC guidance an incentive to do so. Moreover, the new regulation ought to make it easier for individuals to challenge criminal history screening practices by giving them a clear basis for action under California law.
This is the title of an important new article published by Alessandro Corda in the Howard Law Journal proposing a radical way of addressing the malign social impact of our current policies on public access to arrest and conviction records. Corda traces the evolution of record dissemination policies and practices since the 1950s, contrasting the American and European experience where “informal collateral consequences” are concerned. He critiques “partial remedial measures” like expungement and certificates of rehabilitation, and argues for making publication of a defendant’s record an “ancillary sanction” ordered (or not) by the court at sentencing.
While this solution may at first blush seem a bit ambitious, there are states (like Wisconsin) whose sentencing courts can offer the promise of set-aside and expungement upon successful completion of sentence, and that is indeed how the federal Youth Corrections Act operated before its repeal in 1984.
At the very least, Corda makes a convincing case that strong measures are necessary to mitigate the permanent stigma of a criminal record in the information age. The historical and international material will be of particular value to those currently working on this problem in legislatures across the country. Here is the abstract:
The Collateral Consequences Resource Center and its partner organizations, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and the National HIRE Network, are pleased to announce the launch of the newly expanded and fully updated Restoration of Rights Project.
The Restoration of Rights Project is an online resource that offers state-by-state analyses of the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction. Jurisdictional “profiles” cover areas such as loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms rights, judicial and executive mechanisms for avoiding or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing. Each jurisdiction’s information is separately summarized for quick reference.
In addition to the jurisdictional profiles, a set of 50-state comparison charts summarizes the law and illustrates national patterns in restoration laws and policies. We expect to supplement these resources in weeks to come with jurisdiction-specific information about organizations that may be able to assist individuals in securing relief, and information on other third-party resources.